In my book, “Fire Your Narrator! A Storyteller’s Guide to Getting Out of Your Head and Into Your Life,” I explore my inner narrator, whom I’ve named Squash, who so often squashes my confidence with criticism or doubt.
When I can get Squash to settle down, I can draw upon a better inner voice, one that guides me and serves me if only I can hear it.
We all have that inner voice, the one that comes from years of experience and a sense of intuition, that guides us.
But all too often it’s drowned out by all the other noise that swirls through our minds and through our days, squashing our decision-making.
It gets in the way of calling upon and harnessing that inner, wiser voice.
If you’ve ever had that “gut instinct,” you know the voice I’m talking about.
It’s the one that gives us that sense of unease when the business proposal doesn’t seem quite right.
It’s the one that warns us when someone walks too closely behind us down a dark street.
And it’s the one that calls to us from our future, telling us to walk away from a job or a relationship despite our doubt or uncertainty.
I can count the number of times I’ve truly been disappointed in myself and in an outcome when I knew better yet proceeded despite that inkling something wasn’t quite right.
Twice in my television career, I reluctantly signed off on stories for air even though I sensed something was amiss. I buckled in the face of pressure from male colleagues who told me I was wrong, even as I battled unease with the decision.
And… I was right. Both pieces required retractions and fixes. I knew better but I didn’t trust myself enough to listen to my inner voice.
Recently I hired a contractor despite my inner warning system firing up. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but while I was being told all the things I wanted to hear, I didn’t trust it. I ignored those red flags, convincing myself I was being silly and hypercritical. After putting down a hefty deposit, the project has been nothing but a mess of delays and poor communication. We’re working through it, one frustrating week at a time.
It was as if my gut knew better but my people-pleasing mind got in the way.
Finally, there was the time not long ago that I returned to my hotel after a night of drinking with work colleagues. I was alone except for the person who followed me inside and stepped on the elevator after me, positioning himself behind me. When he didn’t press a button, presumably either to be polite and allow me to press my floor first… or… to see where I was going and to follow me there, my inner warning system went into high alert.
Get out of the elevator, it said.
For a moment, my overthinking mind spoke back. Don’t be silly, it said, Don’t make something out of nothing. You don’t want to insult a random stranger (you can’t see because he’s still behind you but you can feel him breathing on you) by suddenly getting out of the elevator.
The doors began to close.
GET OUT OF THE ELEVATOR!, my inner voice now screamed.
I didn’t hesitate. I walked out of the elevator as if I had forgotten something, just as the doors were closing. I waited until it left with the other occupant inside, before pressing the button for another one, going up on my own, and securing the door to my hotel room.
I don’t know what would have happened had I stayed on that elevator. Maybe nothing. Maybe my inner voice was wrong.
But then again, maybe not.
I’m glad I didn’t stick around to find out.
If you find you often ignore that inner voice, or want to tap into it more often, strive for creating silence elsewhere in your life.
Turn down the machinations of your brain (sorry Squash, but you’ve got to shut up!), take a deep breath, and listen deep.
What does your heart say?
What does your gut say?
What is your body trying to tell you?
Listen deep and ask the questions:
What am I feeling?
What seems right or wrong or off about this situation?
What do I need most right now?
What do I want to happen?
Don’t second-guess yourself. You’ve got wisdom within you and if you listen deeply enough, you will be able to speak to and hear yourself.
Get that inner, wiser voice to be fully heard.
Valerie Gordon is the founder of career and communications strategy firm Commander-in-She, LLC. She helps high-achieving clients with the skills necessary to land the job, negotiate the deal, present with confidence, and ascend the leadership ladder. Her book, “Fire Your Narrator!” is available on Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.